Mary Bozym, a 7th grade teacher in Green River, Wyoming, smack on the Oregon Trail, was looking for a classroom set of A HEART FOR ANY FATE. Now she kindly shares a connection to a company that gives a good discount for bulk purchases.
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Mary wrote: "I loved the balance of adventure, the characters, and the historical context. I had been reading Oregon Trail books for young adults non-stop trying to find the right one for our class and yours was perfect. It was clean, adventurous and pulled at the heart strings."
"Oregon Trail Rose"
For Linda's thoughts on the new art film, Meek's Cutoff, a story ostensibly based on the same historical incident included in A HEART FOR ANY FATE, please scroll down this page.
Willa Literary Award
Given by Women Writing the West
Oregon Book Award Winner
Stevens Prize Winner
Washington Reads Spring 2006 List
Spur Award Finalist 2006
Western Writers of America
"Staff Pick" at Powell's Books
From BOOKLIST, the bible for librarians:
"In this richly detailed novel that originally appeared in 2005, Crew creates a riveting, fictional story from the bare facts of an extended family's grueling journey across the Continental Divide ... Seventeen-year-old Lovisa narrates in a wholly believable voice....an accomplished story that will easily find a place in the curriculum."
The Oregon State Library has named A HEART FOR ANY FATE to its list of 150 Books for Oregon's Sesquicentennial
Check out a five star, "Gold Award" review of A HEART FOR ANY FATE at Teens Read Too
Please scroll down this page for more review quotes.
King Family descendant Nigel Parkhurst at the 2009 reunion. He looks exactly the way I envisioned patriarch Nahum King when the family set out for Oregon.
This book, written by Oregonian Mary Jane Carr, was one of my favorites as a child. When I began work on my own covered wagon novel, I found and bought a signed edition, just for luck!
"Madonna of the Prairie," painted for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post when the famous novel, "The Covered Wagon" was serialized in 1922.This image has been used for subsequent Oregon Trail books, but I wanted my Lovisa King to be a bit more "chin up!" How lucky I was to get a real descendant of the King family as my cover model for the first edition. (See above) We superimposed the photo I took of her on a painting from the Smith College Museum of Art, "South Pass, the Wind River Range, Wyoming," painted in 1860 by Seth Frost.
The sound of a wish in a single word.
At least that’s how it sounds to one girl on the Missouri frontier. It’s spring, 1845, and no one is more excited about her family’s long-anticipated trek to Oregon than seventeen-year-old Lovisa King. And why not? Unlike her older sisters, she has no babies to worry about, no sick husband to tend. She’s young, strong, bursting with energy, and even the neighbors’ dire warnings of wilderness perils can’t scare her. After all, who’s better prepared for this than the King family? Aren’t their five brand new covered wagons the finest ones in the jump-off camp? Aren’t they stocked with all the latest in modern traveling equipment? Most confidence-inspiring of all to Lovisa is knowing that her father, Nahum King, is not a man who’d strike out with all three generations of his huge family in tow unless he felt absolutely sure he could get them all to Oregon safely.
Based on the history of a company of real pioneers, A Heart for Any Fate tells of a proud family whose careful plans are challenged by the harsh and unforeseen realities of overland travel, and whose faith is sorely tested by the decision to follow guide Stephen Meek on a shortcut that will be known forever after as the Terrible Trail.
Award-winning author Linda Crew brings to life a page of history never before dramatized in fiction, the story of the “Lost Meeks.” This is the gripping account of a family’s struggle, told in the fresh voice of the daughter destined to grow from girl to woman as she fulfills her role in the epic drama of westward expansion.
Now that I’ve seen it, I can say that I found Meek’s Cutoff beautiful. In researching the Meek Cutoff incident for my own book, A HEART FOR ANY FATE: WESTWARD TO OREGON 1845, I watched every old wagon train movie and recent reenactment documentary available, and none held a candle to Kelly Reichardt’s film for authenticity in terms of the costumes and equipment. Shooting the film in the exact locations where the pioneers who followed Stephen Meek on his “shortcut” was perfect, so much better than one more wagon train winding through Monument Valley or some Hollywood back lot.
But there the authenticity ends. I simply don’t know why the filmmaker had to hijack a true historical incident if she had so little interest in the truth in it, especially when what really happened is so much more interesting than the script written by Jon Raymond. Of course nobody owns history, and she’s breaking no law in ignoring it to suit her purposes, but why? Why not just commission a dramatic but wholly fictional script based on a group of lost pioneers? If it isn’t going to work as history, why not let it work better as dramatic entertainment? Because—as some before me have pointed out—this is one boring movie.
Reichardt’s insistence on supposedly basing the film on a true story breaks one of the rules I set for myself as a writer of historical fiction. I will not take a real person –in this case Stephen Meek—and give him a personality and negative traits for which there is no evidence. In the movie, the plot hinges on Meek’s mistreatment of a Native American man and his terrible attitude toward the natives in general. In truth, in 1845, Native Americans were actually more help than hindrance all the way along the trail, and most of the white leaders quickly came to understand this. When the two hundred wagons of pioneers (yes, two hundred, not three) found themselves stranded in Central Oregon, the solution had nothing to do with Native Americans and everything to do with simply finding water. Stephen Meek was too busy trying to talk his way out of being strung up himself by his irate followers to be threatening some poor Native American who might have stumbled onto the camp. It wasn’t about Indians. It was about water. And when Meek’s followers did finally come upon the heavenly vision of the Crooked River rising from the desert, this must have been a thrilling moment, worthy of dramatizing in fiction, I thought, and one that would have been a highly cinematic moment as well. But Reichardt doesn’t let us have that. And where were the children? Where were the people dying of typhoid fever, which was how so many were lost? For audiences unencumbered by any advance knowledge of the facts of the incident and its outcome, I suppose the conflicts and relationships among the characters might have provided more interest. But for me, and, coincidentally at the same showing, a half dozen descendants of the King family who were actually among Meek’s followers, it was harder to buy the story.
My own Great- great- grandmother came to the Willamette Valley on the Oregon Trail, and I’m a sucker for a covered wagon, so on one hand I loved every beautiful image in Kelly Reichardt’s film and thought that in some ways this must have been exactly how things looked back in 1845. I felt grateful to her for putting it on the screen. At the same time, it struck me that the film didn’t begin to encompass what this true and dramatic incident must have actually looked like in its scope and humanity. So my question to the filmmaker is, if our true story didn’t interest you that much, or you simply didn’t have the budget to do it justice, why come out to Oregon and lay claim to it by name?
Three generations of Lovisa King's descendants gather in Kings Valley at the 2009 King Family Reunion. Judie Kelloff shepherds her daughters and grandchildren at the picnic held on the land originally homesteaded by their ancestors..
In 2008, a marker engraved with the names of Nahum and Sarepta King and their children was placed in the Kings Valley Cemetery by the King Family Association.
We detoured on our Oregon Trail research route to check out the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. I wanted to see a bit of authentic prairie. Since the book ended up winning the Willa Award, named for Willa Cather, I'm especially glad we did.
My husband and I at the famous landmark, Chimney Rock, in Nebraska.
"A Heart for Any Fate does exactly what we want historical fiction to do. After painstaking research and with a keen eye for detail, Linda Crew brings the populated past to vibrant life. The extended King family, setting off for Oregon in 1845, come completely to life on the page, each one an individual, each one someone the reader cares about. The author magnificently tells the large story of the perilous trek west, and within it the small stories of a family, their squabbles and triumphs and heartbreaks. Such fiction makes the past come alive for the young reader by creating characters with personalities that we understand and know."--Lois Lowry, Newbery Medalist, Oregon Book Award Judge
"Crew writes books for young readers from her Corvallis home. She does it so well that many adults want to read the results. This time, she used the true story of an Oregon Trail family to create a short novel of change, daring, adventure, loss and devotion that reads so freshly it seems as if you've never heard this story before."--Dan Hays, in selecting "A Heart for Any Fate" as one of his ten best books of the year. Salem Statesman Journal, January 1, 2006
"This book will appeal to both adults and to young adults. A heartfelt story....difficult to put down, from its first words `West. The sound of a wish in a single word' to the family's arrival on Oregon soil."--Jan Walsh, Washington State Librarian, in selecting the book for the Spring 2006 "Washington Reads" list
"The word `history' takes its meaning from both `story' and `an account well-investigated.' Linda Crew reflects both in A Heart for Any Fate...giving us `history' at its best."--Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of eleven novels including A Land of Sheltered Promise, The Overland Journal, Fall 2005
"I like what Linda Crew has done. It is a fresh look at an old story, done so very well."--Lowell Tiller, co-author of Terrible Trail: the Meek Cutoff 1845.
"Crew, aided by extensive research into Oregon Trail journals and documents, historical photos and a personal trip along the route, skillfully brings the experience of pioneer families to life....Crew's style, while accessible to young readers, is compelling for adults as well."--Bill Andrus, Northwest Books, The East Oregonian March 20, 2005
Devil's Gate in Wyoming. Here, the Sweetwater River flows through a three hundred foot cleft in the rocks.